Farai Sevenzo: "I have witnessed ... the slow deterioration of people's hopes in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe"
Zimbabweans have found their voice again, Harare-born Sevenzo writes
Editor’s Note: Farai Sevenzo is a filmmaker and journalist. Born in Zimbabwe, he has covered Sub-Saharan Africa for more than 20 years as a documentary filmmaker and broadcaster in radio and television. Farai lives between London – where he has two children – and Nairobi, where he is the CNN correspondent.
I woke on Saturday, the day of the planned solidarity march, feeling a sense of anticipation about the hours ahead. Since my arrival in Harare, the complete lack of police presence on the streets had been the most striking thing to see since the apparent coup.
I grew up in this city, and as a journalist working here in my later life, I have witnessed with my camera the slow deterioration of people’s hopes in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. That a march called for by war veterans to force their former leader out of office could be joined by so many ordinary Zimbabweans seemed an exciting prospect.
I wondered, though, if it would even happen.
After all, this is not supposed to happen here, this is supposed to be Mugabe’s capital.
But it did. And the people filling Harare’s wide streets in the city center, and in such great numbers, were not being force-marched to a political rally – they came willingly, along with their mothers and their grandmothers, others with their children who know of no other leader.
Usually on these streets, journalists can’t find anyone willing to talk about how they really feel. But Saturday was different, everybody wanted to talk. And we as journalists were free to record their voices, which is a change in itself – at least for one day.
“The people of Zimbabwe have spoken,” marcher Emmanuel Chabata told us. “They need their industry back, they need their sovereignty back, they need their peace back, they need their freedom of speech back.”
Chabata became more passionate as he spoke.
“They need all their liberties back, their freedom, everything that has been stolen by one person, one family, one dynasty. They are saying enough is enough!”
Only as recently as two weeks ago, Harare International Airport had its name changed to the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport. And there are streets named after the President throughout the country.
But on Saturday, I watched two young men stomp on one street sign bearing the name “R. Mugabe Rd” — an unthinkable act that in the past would land you in jail for insulting the President.
Posters and placards with messages like “Mugabe Must Go,” “Thou Art Fallen” and “Gucci Grace Stop It” – expressed thoughts a Zimbabwean would once never have dared say about the President or Zimbabwe’s first lady, let alone put on paper.
The country still has a way to go in this latest chapter of its political drama, but a corner has been turned.
It feels as if a big buildup of pressure has finally been released and Zimbabweans have found their voice again. Perhaps they will now no longer be afraid of people in power.